Reader Responses Revisited #9 and 23
I hope to eventually catch up on replies to readers and then if I ever have any more reader comments to reply to (hope I do! bet I won't tho! hehehehe I'm so cynical), I hope to start doing them quickly instead of waiting months and months. Just sayin'. Sorry to make youse guys wait so long, if you actually waited all this time, to get responses. If you didn't wait, it's cool, I still loves ya for stopping by the first time thru. :)
Hey there Kythia, are you still around? Who knows, but I'm going to wrap up responding to your last post and stuff today, anyway. :) I'm too tired to make this concise or well-written, so you'll have to just wade in and dig. You are of course not obligated to read closely, or to read any
of it, if you don't wanna! It's cool.
First I'd like to compliment you about something: from what I can tell -- that is, from your posts here and in the music survey thread thingie that is elsewhere on these boards -- your taste in music is highly unusual for a person who wants to write about pop music. (You know, I say "pop" to refer to everything that people still listen to in large numbers -- rap, R&B, country, metal, alternative, dance, electronic, and especially rock and actual pop music, plus other stuff I'm forgetting. I don't consider classical to be pop music. Probably not world music either, except for the top sellers in the category. Most everything else though that sells better than that.)
Anyway I've never encountered a music critic who was a huge fan of the bands you say you love best; not that there aren't critics who like those bands -- I know there are some, plenty probably -- but I haven't heard any other one claim that those
were the best
bands out there, like, better than all the other stuff that critics usually like. I think that's effing great, frankly. :) Seriously, it shows that you have your own tastes and aren't ashamed or bashful about expressing them openly. I don't often encounter music writers about whom I could say that confidently; many of them are just sheep or shills. So, kudos
to you, and I certainly hope you succeed in finding places to get paid writing about music.
Having said all that, I should go ahead and say something you've probably figured out already, which is that your taste in music and mine are extremely different. That's cool, takes all kinds, that's what makes the world go 'round, it's all good. I know very few people -- two actually, possibly just one -- who shares a lot in common with me in terms of musical tastes. You know, though -- this is probably also no surprise to you -- my tastes are much more in line with the tastes of most professional (paid) music critics than yours are, from what I can tell. All I mean by that is that I have either a high regard or a personal devotion to a large number of artists whom most published critics agree are significant and at the top of the pop world in terms of talent and accomplishment, which is not something most critics say about the bands you've mentioned liking. You probably realize that if you've read much music criticism. It doesn't necessarily mean your tastes are good or bad or right or wrong, or that anyone else's tastes are superior or inferior to yours, but there are big differences that seem apparent, and they're worth acknowledging, at least.
Then again, maybe you like a lot of the famous and critically-acclaimed music that's out there and just didn't mention it yet in your posts here or in that music survey thingie. I'm assuming not, though, right? At least not as much
as the stuff you mentioned? I'm guessing that if you were a big
fan of the Beatles or Dylan or the Stones or the Clash or Nirvana or Public Enemy or Jay-Z or Marvin Gaye or Metallica or the Beach Boys or Elvis or James Brown or Sinatra or Radiohead or Arcade Fire or Aretha or Billie Holiday or Cash or Hank Sr. or R.E.M. or Eminem or any of the other umpteen widely-acclaimed artists of the past century, you probably would've mentioned that by now, yes? Most critics whom I've seen published tend to like most of those groups and others a lot more than Bon Jovi or Cinderella or Motley Crue, even if they like 80s hair-metal bands (or whatever genre label you prefer); they usually don't like them more
than those bands I listed or others.
Personally, I like some 80s hair metal; my favorite artist in the genre would be Def Leppard or G'n'R (depending on whether or not you include G'n'R with the other popular bands of that period; some critics don't). Bon Jovi and Crue and Skid Row and others have at least a song or several songs I like. Would I put any of those bands up there with the artists in the preceding paragraph? Not by a very long shot. [Confession: I included two acclaimed bands above whom I don't
like; all the others, I genuinely love.] But that's cool. I love lots of bands and songs who aren't as acclaimed or as popular as any of the artists in the preceding paragraph. I got nothing against popular stuff from any given time period, although there's some stuff I dislike and other stuff I like in each genre and time period of pop history. My very favorite bands ever -- the very top for me personally -- aren't listed in the preceding paragraph.
Guess I'm rambling a lot, but you don't even need to read all this if you don't want to, of course, and I have no idea if you will or not; it's cool either way!
The other big difference in our tastes is even more basic than just liking different artists, however; you seem to think about music in a way that I don't. What makes sense to you in your approach to music makes very little sense to me, and that's probably true in the other direction too, from what I can tell, and that's perfectly fine, it doesn't mean there's only one good or right way to approach music or that your way or my way is superior or inferior, necessarily.
Let me illustrate what I mean, though. Here's a good example:
... But I think you're wrong to try to extrapolate to pop musicians being an artist with the sense of continuity that implies. 84's Bon Jovi has far more in common with the likes of Skid Row (for obvious reasons), Kiss's 82 Killers and similar than, say, Bon Jovi's 1996 These Days.
I didn't suggest or mean to suggest that any artist of any type produces work that is similar in either quality or content throughout his or her career; there are artists who did and do, but they're rare. Most artists evolve over time and change in what they do, as you described with Bon Jovi, and some of their work is less or more successful, both artistically and commercially, as you described with Bon Jovi. In my way of thinking -- perhaps not yours, but my thinking, which might be worse than yours, or better, or just different, I don't know -- none of that has anything to do with whether or not it makes good sense to follow a great artist closely and pay attention to everything they release.
My proposition is just that any great artist releases more than just one great thing, so it makes sense to pay attention to several things the artist releases, and if the artist is good enough -- or one of the best -- then it makes good sense to pay attention to everything
he or she or they release. This just seems logical to me. I suppose it doesn't
seem logical to you, and that's totally fine.
Similarly, this part made no sense to me, and I wonder if you just didn't express yourself clearly enough for me to understand. Either that or I'm just being thickheaded, which I do sometimes. :) Here:
I see pop musicians as a series of a discrete artists that happen to share a name. I think if you hear a song that you like you should be looking for musical contempories of that song, rather than other songs by the band that recorded it.
You seem to suggest that any given artist's releases have little or no
relation to each other, as if they could just as likely be produced by totally different people (!), "a series of discrete artists." I can't begin to get my head around that.
According to this logic, if I heard "You Give Love a Bad Name" and liked it, then your suggestion would be not
that I check out "Wanted Dead or Alive" or "Livin' on a Prayer", but that I instead look for a great song from some totally different band that is a "musical contemporary" of Bon Jovi's. That makes no sense to me, and I doubt it would make sense to many other people. Bon Jovi fans may also love Aerosmith or Motley Crue or Van Halen or Def Leppard or Winger or Whitesnake; if they like one, there's a good likelihood they'll like at least a few others; but would they be likely to love one and only one song from several of those artists, while not caring for all the other songs from those artists? Wha-huh? :)
My guess is that you think about music differently than I do and approach it differently than I do, which is totally cool and fine and okay and perhaps even normal and healthy and good to do, but surely you didn't agree with what I said in that last paragraph, did you? Perhaps you did, but if so, we're just too different to expect to have much common ground in our approaches to music or to art in general. Which is cool, but that's just how it is.
Oh, let me finish by concluding
in relatively quick fashion
my argument about the self-defeating and paradoxical nature of all music criticism.
It seems to me that if you spend a good bit of time and money and effort exploring pop music for a few years, you can probably find a large number of artists whom you consider so great and talented that you would enjoy purchasing and paying attention to not just one but many or all of their releases (IF you think about music like I do; I guess that's a very big if!). Not that you love every release equally, but if the artist is great enough, then each release is worthy of attention and adds somehow to their overall catalog, which you come to love as you get to know it better and better.
Now here's the problem. (I'm going to overstate things here just to make my point; bear in mind that I know there are exceptions and qualifications that can and should be made to these generalizations.) The world of pop music is constantly shifting focus away from anything that's more than three or four years old, sometimes even just one or two years old. Almost all
of the music coverage goes to a small handful of bands and artists who are currently popular and have been for the most recent handful of years. What happened to the artists who were acclaimed and/or popular five or ten years ago? Many of them are still worthy of praise and are still making music, but suddenly all the attention is going to other groups who just happen to be young and new. This happens every five to ten years or so; almost all the "hot" artists change, and it happens among the critics just as predictably as it happens among the general populace. I've been following music long enough to see it get totally out of hand, where you have some critics who literally mock
the music they or their colleagues were praising ten years ago, as being grossly inferior to whatever they like now. (I've seen this happen in both Spin
and Rolling Stone
, which used to be the mostly widely-read sources of rock music criticism, pre-Internet.) This is bizarre and ridiculous to me, and I think it's also illogical.
If one wants to pay close attention to everything being lauded by the music press, then you need to discard all your favorite music every five or ten years and replace it with whatever is currently being praised the most, and usually that new stuff is very different from the stuff that was praised before, because pop music has an incredibly short shelf life (with the shortest being in the world of actual pop and especially rap and R&B, where last year's hits are almost guaranteed to sound dated and passe compared to what's out at this moment).
Not only is it illogical to follow music by following the most acclaimed stuff, but it's also quite expensive and time consuming, so much so that I think it basically turns hardcore music fans into shallow, flagrant materialists ... herd-mentality, consumerist dupes of crass mega-corporations ... mindless puppets on the big labels' strings! hehehehe No offense to the other hardcore music fans out there -- I'm one of you, guys! be merciful!
-- but after buying all the new acclaimed shit for more than a decade, I figured out that it was a waste of both time and money, because the overall average quality level (with key but rare exceptions) kept going down
I'm quite convinced that there was more varied and higher-quality pop music in the 90s than in the 00s; the top bands were just better
bands, making better, more valuable, more worthwhile, more important music, in artistic terms. Same is true if you compare the 80s to the 90s, the 70s to the 80s, and the 60s to the 70s. It doesn't break down cleanly by decade like that, but the overall point is that the best rock and roll happened in the second decade of rock -- 60s music was more varied and superior to the 50s, but that's the only exception to the trend; it's been going straight downhill ever since the 60s.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely. The band I consider the
single greatest band in the history of rock debuted in the late 70s and disbanded in the early 80s. (I'll mail you a dollar if you can guess who! heh) That doesn't change the fact that on average, things were declining then and continued to decline afterwards. There were brief reversals in the late 70s (punk), the mid-to-late-80s (rap), and the early 90s (alternative), but those were limited exceptions to the overall trend.
Really, pop music is in the worst state it's been in in my entire lifetime, right now. It's dead, it's awful, it's laughably bad. *pouts*
Okay, no, let me stop and back up some; I honestly don't know what the hell has happened in the world of pop music in the last 8 or 9 years, because it had already gotten so
bad that I couldn't force myself to keep paying attention to the crud that was being acclaimed 8 or 9 years ago, so I just stopped paying attention. Instead I did what I think any sensible, logical person probably does, which is, I kept enjoying the great music I already have, and I kept following the dwindling number of bands I loved who were still releasing music, and the rest I ignored. What's the alternative that's logical? I can't think of any. (Please share if you have one!)
Although I will say that I have yet to find another pop music lover whose tastes are as deep and as broad as mine and who also
takes such a negative and pessimistic overall view of the world of pop. I've met people who are even more
negative and dismissive than I am, but most of those people have much narrower tastes than I do; they stick to a smaller number of genres or artists, and happily so, and they poop on everything else out there as inferior. I do that too, but usually with more artists than they have whom I consider good. Also, I know people whose tastes are just as broad and deep as mine, or much moreso, but those people tend to keep finding new music they can enjoy, and they don't think my ultra-negative view of the steady downward spiral of pop music is accurate; they see many more positives and generally think my logic is flawed or too rigid or uninformed or all of the above.
To each their own; I wish I could be more positive about the current scene, and maybe someday I will be, looking back; hope so!
Meanwhile, though, if you or anyone read any of that, go love whatever the hell music you love, and ignore any old cranky sourpusses like me who want to say that the stuff you love isn't as good as other stuff you haven't heard or don't happen to like. It's only rock and roll! ("And we like it!") Right? Fuck the naysayers and haters, ya'll! Even if I'm one of them; fuck me too! hehehehe Music is too much fun to not keep a positive attitude and have a good time with it.
[Incidentally I have an ultra-positive outlook about the future of music that I haven't tried to mention here. It is based upon some philosophical and artistic theories I've developed recently -- just in the past two or three years -- and that would take a while to explain. Suffice it to say that even though I take such a dim view of music now, I'm convinced that something new and wonderful is right around the corner, and not only will it be at least as good as anything that's come before, but it might be even better
. You heard it here first, folks! I'm convinced! Maybe I'll tell you why sometime. :) ]
Kythia: as you can see, I really rambled my brain out here, and I wandered all over the place and may have said so much that you couldn't stand to even read it, and that's totally cool if you didn't; if I were anyone besides me, I don't think I would have read it either! hehehehehe Nevertheless, if you have any interest in sharing any responses pro or
con to anything I've said here that you did read, please feel free to do so, because I'm very interested in hearing more from you and learning more about your views and tastes, even if they're very different from mine; I can still learn from you and benefit from the dialog, if you care to continue it, now or later. Or not, it's cool either way, absolutely no obligations.
Thanks for reading! Back again for more rambling soon and more visitor-comment replies too, although there aren't many left, because what sane person would read or comment here? hehehehehe